By Kim Caldwell
Networking is like self-care for your career.
“Good networking doesn’t require superpowers; mostly it requires being open to new possibilities and doing the work to get yourself in the same space as the right person.”
Kim Caldwell, founder of Caldwell Connect
Networking – for some people, it’s as natural as putting on pants in the morning or singing along to Sweet Caroline at a bar. But for many, networking is a tummy-twisting, eye-roll-inducing nightmare scenario you’ve perfected avoiding on your calendar.
Research shows that many people have a negative perception of networking, associating it with being dirty or transactional. But research also tells us that having diverse relationships not only increases our access to opportunities, it literally makes us better people who are better at coming up with ideas.
So how do you get yourself networking? Approach it with these three tips:
1. Know why you’re networking. If you’re attending an event you only hope will be helpful, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or to find an excuse for skipping. So don’t do that. Only go to networking events or one-on-one sessions when you are clear on HOW you want networking to change your work or community life and WHY this is the right way to do it. Having a purpose will help you interact with confidence and actually get you moving.
2. Be present, not reflexive. Listen, you can have an entirely safe and nice conversation and never feel an ounce of connection. Don’t do that either. Spend some time before you network learning about that person or that industry so you can break the conversation molds and really engage with thoughtful questions and honest interaction. It will make your experience one you enjoy and are able to take action from.
3. Make it fun enough to prioritize. If you approach networking like a chore you are going to prioritize it the way you do scrubbing the shower: something you only do when there is a task even more terrible you want to avoid. Think about the great relationships you have created over time and what makes them rewarding. Then motivate yourself to seek out more of that! Or if that doesn’t do it, plan the meeting at Amy’s Ice Cream or reward yourself with a new notebook every five meetings. You know you.
Ready to get started?
Take three minutes to identify a first networking goal. Maybe it is getting to know someone in your office who does something you don’t totally understand yet. Maybe it is connecting to a peer at a partner organization to exchange lessons learned. Or maybe it is reconnecting with an old friend or contact who used to inspire your or make you think critically about your work. Get that first great experience under your belt then build the network that will change your world!
Networking is just one part of effective business communications.
If you are trying to up-skill and need training options, check out the courses in the Communication Skills for Professionals Certificate Program. They can be taken in a group to earn a certificate, or you can just take the classes that focus on the skills you need to develop.
Kim Caldwell is a native Austinite with a passion for connecting people. For the last 15 years she has partnered with mission-driven people and organizations across the country to plan their bold steps forward. She has earned a master’s degree in public service, a B.S. in Public Relations and a B+ in adulting.
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